04 March 2009

1984: Egg Hits Margaret Thatcher

From the Daily Mirror, June 24, 1984:

Premier Margaret Thatcher was hit in the face by an egg yesterday.

Butter, ice cream and a tomato, also thrown by demonstrators, missed her.

The barrage came as Mrs Thatcher left a Tory meeting at which she had condemned the miners' strike and picket-line violence.

She was jeered by miners' wives outside the meeting - at Porthcawl, in Wales - but the missiles came from farmers and their wives.

The Dyfed Farmers' Action Group later claimed responsibility, saying it had hurled three dozen eggs and four pounds of butter in protest at Common Market agricultural policies.

A group spokesman said: "We threw only New Zealand butter because we didn't want to waste good British butter."

At the meeting, Thatcher described the miners' strike as:

... a "tragedy" for miners, the coal industry and the country.

Mrs Thatcher said: "The violence which recently disfigured the television screen has left us grievously anxious."

She praised the police for their "courage, fairness, patience and restraint."

"Our duty is not discharged simply by condemning violence. Our duty demands and the national interest requires that we see that violence does not pay and is seen not to."

Bus, train and ferry services in London and the South-East will be disrupted by walk-outs in support of the miners on Wednesday.

Stepping into the 1980s was rather like stepping into an exhilarating minefield. It was the decade of fast-moving fads and clonking new technology; the decade when many working class folk got some dosh or joined in the credit boom; it was the decade when some folk got poorer; it was a decade unlike any other.

But Margaret Thatcher was not destined to reign long, it seemed, in the early 1980s. As unemployment leapt whilst the government concentrated on bringing down inflation, Mrs T became very unpopular. By 1982 she was the most unpopular Prime Minister of the 20th Century. But then came the Falklands War and the Iron Lady came into her own. A strong leader, that's what many felt was needed at that point, and she was certainly that. And, on the back of the so-called "Falklands Factor", she called an early election in 1983 and was returned to Downing Street for a second term with a landslide victory.

And then the Miners' Strike reared up, Arthur Scargill and a way of life against the Iron Lady. The Strike was long and bloody and at the end of it Thatcher had triumphed.

At that time a new breed of person was appearing - the yuppie. The acronym (young urban professional) had first appeared in America in 1980, and caught light as it was applied to those taking advantage of the new political regime after the inauguration of Ronald Reagan in 1981 (he was elected in November 1980). And where America led, we followed.

The UK was changing. The world, it seemed, was changing. The mid-to-late 1980s were either a hopeless or hedonistic time, depending on your vantage point. Or a time to protest.

Did you love or hate Thatcher? Whatever you did, you couldn't ignore her and political arguments raged in pubs up and down the land. And whether you argued for or against the Thatcher government, the scoring of points was an exhilarating experience. I argued fiercely against and had some of the best pub nights out in my life!

Nobody argues like that now. And if people shook themselves out of their state of smug complacency they might just see that rather more interest in the modern day political scene, and the calling to account of our modern day political parties, wouldn't come amiss. But it's so much easier to blame the '80s for everything and do nothing!

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